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Credit card usage soars

By Janna Herron ·
Tuesday, January 10, 2012
Posted: 3 pm ET

Holy moly, it looks like it was an expensive holiday season.

A new report released from the Federal Reserve on Monday showed consumers charged more in November. Revolving credit (aka credit card debt) rose to $798.3 billion from $792.7 billion the previous month.

Not only is that the third month in a row credit card balances have increased, but November's figure adds up to an 8.5 percent change in the annual rate. The annual rates for the two previous months were 1 percent in October and 0.7 percent in September.

That's a huge jump. And that's not all.

First Data Corp. said Tuesday credit card transactions in December rose by 6.1 percent from a year ago, while total dollars spent on credit cards grew by 6.8 percent.

There are many people speculating about why the huge increase in credit card spending. Some say it's a sign people are feeling better about the economy and their personal finances, and are ready to spend.

Others say consumers took advantage of some great bargains offered by retailers to get shoppers through the door. Let's not forget some of the attractive holiday rewards programs issuers rolled out.

Then there are the glass-half-emptiers who say people are still struggling with high unemployment and are using their credit cards for necessities.

I can't tell you who's right, but we should all watch delinquency rates in the coming months for good clues. In the meantime, if you're one who finds big credit card bills in the mail this month, set up a budget to aggressively pay off your balances as quickly as possible.

How did your holiday spending pan out this year? Any shopping hangovers?

Follow me on Twitter: @JannaHerron.

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February 21, 2012 at 12:12 am

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January 11, 2012 at 12:51 pm

No one held a gun to their head to fill out those applications.

Apparently 2008 taught people absolutely nothing.

January 10, 2012 at 6:17 pm

Yeah, the subprime users are back at it again thanks to the bankers sending out credit card applications to them by the ton.